Veranstaltungen im Sommersemester
HS: Wilderness and the Garden: Conceptions of Nature in America
From the time when the
first settlers arrived on American soil to the present age, America's
natural landscapes have exerted a powerful influence upon the imagination
of the people. Depending on the historical situation and individual
circumstances, the responses to the natural environment have ranged
from awe and fear to admiration and fascination. America's preoccupation
with nature has given rise to a broad range of cultural expressions
that pervades almost every sector of American life. From car commercials
to issues of national policy, nature supplies settings, themes,
and values to such a degree that it has come to be regarded as an
ingredient of the national identity. For many Americans, their country
has always been "Nature's Nation." Based on a variety
of textual sources, this class will provide students with relevant
information and insights about a crucial aspect of American civilization
and will attempt to clarify how the concept of "nature"
has changed over time.
in signing up for this class should be willing to devote time and
effort to the study of a significant amount of reading material.
Moreover, participants will be required to demonstrate their skills
in critical reading by writing several short interpretive essays.
HS: The Home of the Brave: Heroes in American Culture
Mon 13-15 h
After the attacks on
New York City and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, the American
press was full of articles about various forms of heroism brought
about by the terrorist attacks. Firefighters in particular, but
also policemen and, later, soldiers were considered heroes in their
response against the threat of terrorism. While it is unusual for
German observers to use terms such as "hero" and "heroism,"
let alone assign it to members of their own culture, the concept
of the hero is well established in American culture. From colonial
times to the 21st century, politicians, soldiers, athletes, and
other figures have been celebrated for their individual contributions
to their country. If is true that, in the words of American historian
Dixon Wecter, "Hero-worship answers an urgent American need,"
then a study of American heroes will provide an insight into the
culture that selected them as representatives of its particular
By studying a selection
of hero figures from various phases of American history, this class
invites students to familiarize themselves with historical figures
and events. The examples will provide ample opportunity for analyzing
the cultural processes that underlie the definitions of heroism
and will, therefore, help to develop an understanding for the functions
that American heroes play in negotiating acceptable positions located
between individual will and collective order.
should be prepared to do a significant amount of reading, to participate
actively in in-class discussions and to work on a number of written
HS: Beginnings of American Short Fiction
For some scholars, the
beginning of American literature coincides with the emergence of
the short story. It is regarded as a genre which provided American
authors with an opportunity to compete with British writers, whose
books were widely available in the United States in pirated, and
therefore cheap, printings. The emergence of literary magazines,
however, provided aspiring writers with an outlet for their literary
productions and gave them a vehicle to express the topics and themes
that were on their minds. It is a literary form that for William
Dean Howells, one of America's most influential early literary critics
and writers, possessed "almost limitless possibilities"
and that gave him "pride as an American."
It is the object of
this class to read and examine a selection of short stories by Washington
Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and lesser known writers
of the first half of the nineteenth century in order to develop
a sense of the literary productions of the time and to get an impression
of the prevailing subjects and themes as well as the formal features
of America's early short fiction.
Students wishing to
sign up for this class should be familiar with the basic techniques
of textual analysis. Moreover, they should be prepared to commit
themselves to a number of reading and writing assignments.
PS: American Folklore An Expression of the People, Their
Land, and Their Experience
Mo 15-17 h
For the student of cultural
studies a familiarity with folklore is a valuable asset, because,
in the words of folklore scholar Jan Harold Brunvand, "Only
by turning to the folklore of peoples, probing into its meanings,
patterns, and functions [ . . . ] may we hope to understand the
intellectual and spiritual life of humanity in its broadest dimensions"
(The Study of American Folklore, 1978). This class has a
specific focus on popular American traditions. Like any other people,
Americans have sought a sense of identity in songs and stories that
reflect portions of their country's history and project the country's
hopes and ambitions. Thus, examining recurring themes such as movement,
self-education, upward mobility and heroic deeds of large heroes
may illuminate some national features that are often regarded as
typical American characteristics. It is an endeavor that may ultimately
improve our understanding of American culture in a wider sense.
Only students who are prepared to participate actively and to commit
themselves to oral and written assignments should sign up for this
class. Prospective participants are encouraged to familiarize themselves
in advance with the general aspects of the subject.